Thursday, December 31, 2009

Commonwealth to Mass. Town: Holding Back Parking Scofflaw Data Not the Ticket

1940 Parking MeterImage via Wikipedia

Score one for the Watertown (Mass.) Tab as the Secretary of the Commonwealth's office sided with the weekly newspaper in its public records battle with Watertown officials over the release of parking scofflaw information.

Watertown officials cited the federal Drivers Privacy Protection Act [18 U.S.C. sec. 2721-2725] among other reasons in denying the Tab's request last May for the names, addresses and outstanding balance owed by Watertown's 10 top parking delinquents. The Tab sought the information under the Commonwealth's Public Records Law [M.G.L. c. 4, sec. 7(26)].

Alan N. Cote, the Commonwealth's Supervisor of Public Records, ordered the town to release the information in a letter dated Dec. 24, which stated that the federal drivers privacy statute was inapplicable. Under the Mass. law and corresponding public records access regulations [950 C.M.R. 32.00]: "Every document, paper, record, map, photograph, etc., as defined by law, that is made or received by a government entity or employee is presumed to be a public record." The Public Records Law includes 18 categories of exemptions, including certain personnel and medical records and law enforcement investigatory records.

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